Are the Bulls serious about winning? Because it seems like they’re just play-in around

The Bulls play the Raptors on Wednesday, and one could cut the dramatic tension with a spork.

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Next up for DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine and the Bulls: the play-in tournament.

Next up for DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine and the Bulls: the play-in tournament.

Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

The worst team in the NBA took the court Sunday at the United Center.

No, not the Bulls. The Pistons.

Frankly, it can be kind of hard to tell the difference.

Consider the final four games of the Bulls’ regular season. First, in a matchup with serious implications on play-in-tournament positioning, they got their clocks cleaned by the Trae Young-less Hawks. Next, they were toyed with by the Giannis Antetokounmpo-less Bucks. After that, they nearly lost in Dallas despite the fact the Mavs were tanking so hard — to guard a top-10-protected draft pick, play-in be damned — the NBA now is investigating them.

Finally, the 17-win Pistons rolled in for a Game 82 that was so numbingly meaningless, it was an insult to the word “meaningless.” The Bulls won 103-81, or was it the other way around?

The under-.500 Bulls are just biding their time until Wednesday’s 10-vs.-9 game in Toronto, the winner of which will be one step closer to an utterly hopeless, inevitably embarrassing first-round series against Eastern Conference top seed Milwaukee.

“The totality of the results are disappointing, quite honestly,” coach Billy Donovan said.

Was that an insult to the word “disappointing”?

“But we still have put ourselves in position to play after tonight,” Donovan said, “and I’m excited that these guys have been able to put themselves in that position. So, what we’ve got to do is keep trying to get better, get prepared to play Toronto and go up there and be our best on Wednesday night. It’s the only option that we have.”

So the Bulls have that going for them, right?

One could cut the dramatic tension with a spork.

Maybe the NBA should investigate the whereabouts of the Bulls’ effort, heart and potential. Or at least hold a mirror under their noses to make sure they’re still with us.

THREE-DOT DASH

A bored, loafing reporter watched a dainty, harmless little mouse skitter about the United Center media workroom (such a swanky place) Sunday and thought: This must be metaphorical.

A pretty perfect mascot for the Bulls, no? Not to mention — double duty! — for the Blackhawks. …

How awful to see the Red Stars’ Mallory Swanson, who’d been on a goal-scoring binge with the U.S. women’s national team, carted off the field Saturday after tearing the patellar tendon in her left knee during a friendly against Ireland in Austin, Texas. She surely will miss this year’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand as her USWNT teammates go for a third straight title. …

If a single news outlet publishes five NFL mock drafts at once that have five different players — Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez, Northwestern tackle Peter Skoronski, Ohio State tackle Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Texas Tech edge rusher Tyree Wilson — going to the Bears at No. 9, has anyone actually gained an ounce of insight into anything at all? Try picking a lane, CBSSports.com. … 

Show of hands: Who had outfielder Jason Heyward storming out of the gates with three homers and an adorable little 1.375 OPS in his first six games in a platoon role with the Dodgers? Of course you did. …

The Rays are 9-0, with each of their victories coming by at least a four-run cushion. Other than that, they haven’t been that impressive at all.

Chicago White Sox v Houston Astros

White Sox ace Dylan Cease is off to a fast start in 2023.

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

THIS YOU GOTTA SEE

White Sox at Twins (1:10 p.m. Monday, NBCSCH): The Sox send ace Dylan Cease to the mound, the ideal scenario. As for the rest of this series? They’ll cross that bridge when it collapses.

NBA play-in: Hawks at Heat (6:30 p.m. Tuesday, TNT): To the winner goes the No. 7 seed in the East and a first-round date with the Celtics. Or as Jimmy Butler calls it: just the beginning.

NBA play-in: Bulls at Raptors (6 p.m. Wednesday, ESPN): The winner takes on the loser of Hawks-Heat for the No. 8 seed in the East and a first-round date with the Bucks. Or as reality puts it: There are no winners here.

ONLY BECAUSE YOU ASKED

From Charles, via email: “Why are so many college basketball players entering the transfer portal right when it’s their chance to step into a starting — or even starring — role at their school?”

There’s no warm-and-fuzzy way to put this, Charles: All hell has broken loose. Coaches are complaining about the portal out of one side of their mouths while sweet-talking non-portal players at other schools out of the other. NIL stockpiles are growing all the time, and players are following the money to the highest bidders. Never has big-time college sports been less charming or palatable. Or maybe it’s just me.

THE BOTTOM FIVE

Pedro Grifol: That’s three series as White Sox manager, and they haven’t won one of them yet. You know, in case that matters to anybody.

Eloy Jimenez: The guy just can’t stop getting hurt, though there’s absolutely no truth to the rumor he strained a muscle attempting to join Ozzie and Chuck on the postgame show.

Kyrie Irving: You mean he wasn’t exactly what the Mavs needed to climb over the top, after all? Shocking.

The Timberwolves: Brawling with one another in front of their bench — on camera, during a game — doesn’t seem like the most inspired strategy, but let’s see if it works. 

Tiger Woods: One day, he’s tying the record for consecutive cuts made at the Masters. The next, he’s wincing in agony and withdrawing. Getting old: a tradition unlike any other.

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